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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Film Shoot and Compositional Sophistication...

Just a quick one before I'm off to bed. Things have worked out spectacularly with my hours at NY 1 this month. I counted up what I was scheduled for and realized I'd make rent easily but then I've gathered so many extra shifts on the fly that I think I may do a little better even. I was called in tomorrow to cover for someone who'll be out sick. Last week was a full 40 hours, plus holiday pay I hadn't accounted for originally and two days where I got a one hour meal incentive for not getting to take a break. I don't know if that hour is a fully paid hour or not. We'll see.

Here's some pictures from the film shoot the other day.

I'm really having a good time with these guys. And all the opportunities that are presenting themselves can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Occasionally, I feel like I'm not ready for some of them yet, like I'm not commercially viable yet. But then I remember that I'm working with a very rudimentary set up here one mic, a cheap Tascam preamp and a nominally powerful computer, a casio keyboard with a MIDI output and the guitars and amplifier that I have had since college and high school even. I have to get good at creating with those items first before I can hope to afford the really good equipment that professionals have. More than that though, it's really compositional sophistication that I'm after. A phrase that hit me like a brick wall my first year of grad school (mainly because the phrase was written in red ink on a piece of paper telling me that I had a distinct lack of it and that my professor was still waiting to see more of it from me).

It has taken me years since then to really come to grips with what that really means. But even still, it's an abstract concept that I couldn't articulate if you asked me to right now, except to say that I know it's what sets professional recording artists and film composers from myself with my meager set up and sometimes, to me, shameful lack of finished material. I think it's also something to do with being able to compose a line of music that is complete and lacks nothing, no matter if it's short or long, loud and boisterous or soft and pensive. The kind of music that sounds as though it always existed and merely manifested itself through you somehow. Not something that sounds contrived or incomplete. Not something that is still trying to figure out what it wants to be. Something that has always known what it was supposed to, how it was supposed to begin, swell in tempo or dynamics and gently fall away and cadence. Like the way a bird knows how to fly or a cat knows how to hunt. To be able to compose a piece of music that embodies all these ideas is to possess, or rather to express compositional sophistication. I think.

Me, I feel like this is so incredibly elusive a thing and working at it will probably consume my entire life. Maybe it's not something that you eventually find, the way some people suddenly find Jesus or their car keys. Maybe it's something that you build upon gradually, like a retirement account or a career. Slowly, patiently, accepting that it won't be perfect right away or that you might take steps backwards or stumble or you might howl in frustration and throw things. Maybe it's like that.

I find myself listening to my old stuff and thinking I need to move forward and change this or that or I hear it and think, "Did I write that? Why don't I write like that anymore?" (But of course, you never can, you have to keep moving forward). I also find myself working with new styles of music that someone wants me to write for them and, when it comes out sounding contrived, I grumble that I don't write this style of music and it's bound to sound uninspired and insipid even. But then, isn't the problem that I'm judging to early what I know takes time to improve upon? I know that I'm going to have years of writing Latin, Funk, Jazz, Rock, Electronic, Pop, Acoustic Rock, Classical and even Polka (if they need it) ahead of me to improve upon it. It's not impossible. It may not feel natural but it's part of my life. I chose to be a film composer and, while I will always write my own music and attempt to innovate however I can, being a film composer entails writing what someone else wants you to write. You can make it your own creature but if they say, "less 70s porno and more 90s hip hop," then that's what you have to do.

As for compositional sophistication, at least I know about where I need to be looking. When I start to write a melody, there's always that pure improvisational moment where nothing is telling me where to go except my fingers on the keyboard and the memory of every thing that came before it. After that, I have to take it somewhere and knowing where to take it is composing.

Anyway, I have to work at 8am tomorrow so I don't know what I'm still doing up typing this blog and getting all poetic. Good night.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Networking and edible weather...

I just had the most awesome idea the other day. Well, the main aspect of it is not my original idea but the grand picture is. And I'm not thinking of doing this right away. More like a goal to work towards. Anyway, it would be awesome to work toward having a nice enough place in Manhattan and being freelance enough that I could easily leave my apartment for periods of time, so that I could do the occasional apartment swap with people in various towns and cities in Europe and across the world. Then I could write music anywhere I wanted, within reason. Maybe Reykjavik. Kidding. There's so much else to consider in such a scenario, like what to do with the cat.

But anyway, that's a distraction at best right now. I'm working hard on Warzak's score (the NYU short) in the next few days, hoping to have all of the source music recorded before Warzak comes by on Thursday so we can work on the underscore. I also managed to do some networking through Joel (for whom I was working as a PA and for whom I wrote music a month ago) and might have landed my next composing job (probably pro bono again)). The AC who was working with us on the shoot Thursday perked up when I said I was composer. Interesting story, the video we were working on during the shoot is for a website called Officeworks.com (still in the "works" apparently) and we were told to interview people on the street asking them what their dream job was (I was holding the boom mic all day, my arms were killing me). They decided to interview me first just to do a test run and get some things set up with lighting, sound and camera and of course, when asked my dream job, I said film composer without a moment's hesitation. So Amir asked me about it later and mentioned that he just finished a short and is working with a composer who might fall through. So I gave him my card and then rather unscrupulously handed one out to the rest of the crew as we sat eating lunch outside city hall. Hook, line and sinker.

Have I mentioned that I love this city. Twice last week, I wound up on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge at the end of my day and decided, instead of grabbing the 4 or 5 train back to Brooklyn through the tunnel, to walk the bridge, despite being tired as crap both days. It's just amazing. And it's only about another three blocks on the other side of the bridge to the Court St. M/R station where I can usually, during rush hours, catch the M back to 9th Avenue.

And the weather is just so nice that I wanted to eat it. If that makes any sense. Friday I worked a 6am to 2pm shift at NY 1 and, when I got done, I met some friends at Sheep Meadow in Central Park to sit in the grass and hang out. I took my shoes off. Then we went to get beers at a bar on 1st Avenue near 59th Street because it was that kind of afternoon where you drink beer while the sun is still up.

Time Out New York Magazine announced all of the summer concerts this year in the most recent issue. I already know I'm going to try and go see Bela Fleck in Central Park because it's part of the free concert series. I will say it again, I love this city.

(In case you were wondering about the film terminology and all the acronyms above read this article. It's a good primer for knowing the people on a film crew...note how composers are way at the bottom of the list).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gruesome details about cat potty training ahead, followed by me somehow tying it all into my life as a whole...

I think Penny's almost got the hang of toilet training. I was getting frustrated but then I had an epiphany. Let me start a few weeks ago. I got started back into training her again because I ran across some websites that dealt with toilet training and had some new ideas that were essentially post criticism of what most of the books say. I thought, "Great, some new insights." The first thing they say is to use a pan or a bowl that fits into the toilet. This I did but I had to improvise on how to keep it from falling in to the toilet because it was only just wide enough to hang on the lip of the bowl. What I did: Strips of cardboard that overhang the toilet bowl between the bowl and toilet, held in place by the sheer weight of the toilet seat. Worked like a charm and the bowl hasn't fallen in the toilet at all. Then they say that, if the cat sits in the bowl instead of on the toilet seat, then you have to train them to put their feet up on the seat. Penny does not respond to this at all. You try to move her feet and she whines and jumps down. It is crucial to make her sit on the seat because the next thing you do is reduce the amount of litter in the bowl/pan until there's nothing left and (and this is where they differ from the books) eventually replace it with water before finally removing the bowl. You can't have the cat sitting in her own excrement at this stage and then tracking it all over the house. First time I did reduce the amount of litter she did just that. It was inevitable. And you also can't have the cat always expecting to have the bowl be there and then get confused when it's not there. So, anyway, I would subsequently try to be there when she used the bathroom so I could train her not to sit in the bowl, but I have failed every time this week even though I've been home. And any attempt at showing her how to sit on the toilet when she doesn't have to go has been a miserable failure. But then something occurred to me. It can't be pleasant for the cat to basically pee on herself and she's a lot more intelligent than I give her credit for. After all, every time she pees outside of the litter box she attempts to find some place where she can conceal it (a rug, the bath mat, anything that resembles dirt or the ground). She's astute and observant and almost ritualistic sometimes. She can figure it out on her own. She has to figure it out on her own to really do it right, incorporate it into her routine, so to speak. So I cleaned up the mess and then just continued to use less litter but not so much less that it made a mess whenever she went. After a few days, I'm not seeing foot prints in the litter after she's gone so I'm thinking, she must have figured out how to squat on the seat on her own. I didn't need to show her after all.

Now, hopefully this'll keep up. I keep watching these videos on youtube and seeing cats doing their duty in the bowl but then I see one or two where the cat slips and almost falls in (Watch this one to the end). Penny is inherently clumsy in her middle age. Hopefully, it won't ever happen to her to the extent where she gets too terrified of the toilet to go back and starts to revert to more dirt-resembling places to relieve herself.

Anyway, how does this relate to my life at the moment? It's a lesson that can be applied elsewhere for certain. My general frustration is that I can't make things happen the way I want them to (even though we've been over this before it still lingers). With Technicolor, I hassled them a good bit before I just let it go and finally they called me. I can only assume that the rest of my endeavors may play out like this. As long as I'm doing my part in looking for opportunities and applying, I can't do much else. I need to let things unfold, as agonizing as that can be.

Only things is I find myself asking the question, "how much time do I devote to any given endeavor before moving on?" That's where I currently am. You can give so much energy but not see any results and then sit and wonder if it's time to move on, move on and then get a call from a job and have to either turn them down or give them the run around before taking the job. Ultimately, though regardless of what happens and when it happens, it's probably going to make sense which job to take, money being the big issue.

Anyway, in other random news, I got my hair buzzed really close. Decided to embrace the receding hairline and bald spot instead of persistently getting a haircut that just doesn't look good. Since there's no one around and the cat isn't so skilled at photography, this is the only time I will take a photo of myself in the bathroom mirror and post it online.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A full weekend...

After three months here, things seem to be coming a little bit easier. I'm hanging out with friends more often and not feeling like it's breaking the bank to be social. I'm meeting new people, musicians and filmmakers alike and with Technicolor finally calling me back about work, I feel like things are falling into place.

I realize that if I attempt to devote the blog to blow by blows of my weekend activities I may fail miserably because the more I fill my off time, the less time I'll devote to blogging and it'll just be entire entries about what I've done and no room for reflection. But this weekend was loads of fun, a diverse set of activities, so I feel I must comment, divulge, expound upon and otherwise treat you all to a summation of my escapades, in no particular order.

Poker night has become a staple, something I can always count on happening if I'm looking for something to do to break the monotony. Sunday night was probably the most fun it has been yet. There were seven people total there that were playing, plus Karishma who came along to observe (I sort of dragged her there after we had gone to a street festival with Emily who was visiting this weekend. More on the street festival and Emily's visit later on. Karishma said she didn't want to play but I told her she didn't have to and to come and just watch. After all, it's a $5 buy-in so it's not something to just jump in on and do horrible at, especially with so many sharks in the room. Okay, I really must close these parenthesis. It's getting ridiculous.) I must say I'm getting the hang of it. I even gave Mike a run for his money, as we went head to head for a couple of hands, just the two of us. He beat me in the end. I bluffed when I shouldn't have. I think what made it so fun was that everyone who had gotten out was on the edge of their seat watching the final hands with bated breath.

Thursday night, Karishma's parents took us out for dinner at a Korean place near Union Square called Dosirak. It was great stuff and the first time I'd had Korean food in, let's just say, a very long time, due to painful associations with the stuff. Karishma's parents are very generous, (it was her father's birthday that night), and they insisted on paying for everything even with eight of us at the table. The night before they had me over to her place and cooked a fabulous "prawn" curry with fried king fish. Her father has even invited me to come to India sometime. I accepted. Sounds like a fabulous adventure. And all of his friends are musicians including his brother so it sounds like I'd have a great welcome and they'd want me to play in their studios with them. I'm in. They are traveling around the east coast this week and will be back in NY for another week afterward.

Beyond that, I worked Friday and Saturday but, each night, there was something going on afterward. Friday night, I met Emily and Paul (a friend living in Astoria whom I've not seen since I moved up here) in Williamsburg (B Burg) at a bar called Spuyten Duyvil (silly Dutch name). Spuyten Duyvil has an amazing beer selection and a great garden in the back that unfortunately closes at 1230. Paul's friend Randy came along and we all just chatted the night away.

Saturday night, I was invited to a party up in Astoria where Paul and Emily were, incredibly close to Katrina's place. So, I stopped by Katrina's to chat and pick up some mail and then, on to the party. The party was at another UNCG grad's apartment, a couple that I knew from the dorm days. They weren't expecting me, well, Carlos wasn't, so it was neat to surprise them and I got a bit of a reaction out of people there. I've known that they lived in the area but had been putting off contacting them for no apparent reason. At any rate, we all spent the evening catching up as there were several other UNCGers there as well that I remembered from back in the day.

There being so many of my friends already up here kind of drives the point home that I was meant to come up here and be around people that have similar ambitions. I'm starting to feel like I belong and that no matter what happens to me, I'm going to find the opportunities that I need to advance my career with almost no problem. I say "almost" to avoid sounding naive or too hopeful. I think what I'm really getting at is that, as long as I'm constantly looking out for my career, meeting people who are in the business and am generally "hungry," as my dad says, I should be okay. (Footnote: hungry referring to my desire to get somewhere with my career rather than waiting for something to happen, not the other kind of hungry where there's nothing to eat in my fridge but a stick of butter and some old cheese.)

Things have been happening work-wise. Joel, whom I met at Farah's Oscars party and whom I wrote music for, invited me to come and help out on a film shoot the other day to get some experience for my resume. I'm going out next week again to help out. I'm planning on building up the film experience section of my resume using people I already know and/or just met. Meanwhile, with Technicolor back on the radar and the potential for movie and TV extra work (slim potential, I might add), I'm feeling pretty confident that, next month, I'll be able to pay rent and eat, again. Go me.

Some pics from the street fair and a little info.

5th Ave Street Fair Best

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blurb #8

Good news from yesterday. Technicolor called me finally and asked if I could work some shifts. I unfortunately couldn't work either of the two they offered because of NY 1. However, they made it clear they do want to get me back in there and that Ernie would be taking some vacation again at the end of the month so they'd be calling me then.

See? Things aren't so bad. And Thursday, I'll be helping out on a film shoot in Brooklyn to get some experience. Same guy for whom I wrote music back in March. I'm assuming it'll be grip type work, helping set up audio and lighting, or maybe just PA stuff. No idea what to expect really.

I also turned my head shots in to the casting agency so I should be hearing from them soon, hopefully, with some paying extra gigs.

(Here are the head shots courtesy of Tony Jukich)

Head Shots New Best

Also, Karishma's parents are in town for the next three weeks. It's been great meeting them (they're really cool) and I expect I'll be hanging out with them a lot over the next few days.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Working more...

I got an extra shift this week because someone called out sick. It wasn't that bad, in fact, I may have over dramatized the dissonance at work that I was speaking about. I mean, after all, my perception was responsible for half of it. I can think of another way to look at it all together in which I look at it all as just another thing that I have to deal with like the people who honk their horns on my street at 7 in the morning, or the long wait for the D train. Some things are just a fact of life and we do much better not trying to avoid all those unpleasant things but rather observing them and choosing not to react or to react in a positive manner.

At any rate, I'm learning that I also shouldn't judge someone on their behavior on any given day because I've had my bad days (Monday being one of them) and sometimes I get angry or impatient. In other words, I probably shouldn't take it so personally. Any of it.

This afternoon I took my head shots to that talent agency, a small office in a building on Broadway between Herald and Madison Square. I then took a stroll down Broadway instead of going back to Herald Square and enjoyed the darkening sky and impending thunderstorm as I sat in front of the Flatiron building (which I had no idea I was walking towards until I looked up and saw it). Then I took a walk across the street to Madison Square Park and sat there for a bit. There's a Shake Shack there in the middle of the park and there was a line out to the street for burgers. The burgers there are so good and so cheap, ($3.75 for a regular hamburger) and they're high quality too. The meat is ground fresh daily. I ate at the location by the Natural History museum a few weeks ago with my friend who goes to Columbia. This whole run-in with the original Shake Shack location influenced my decision to get ground sirloin for dinner and make burgers in my cast iron pan (thanks for bringing it up Mom!).

Tonight, I'm going to work on some music as I'm putting up a profile on a page called Guru.com, a site for freelancers to peddle their skills. It looks promising so far. I'm also checking out this site, Going.com, a sort of social networking site for NYC and other metros. It's pretty cool so far as well. But we'll see. Enough for now, here's some photos I snapped in Sunset Park the other night.

Sunset Park at Sunset

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Frustration, Disappointment and Music...

Gloomy night up here. But sometimes I like that kind of weather. Call me weird. I've got a lot on my mind tonight and I have no idea where to start. I'm feeling a little off because, for one thing, I'm trying to figure out how to deal with difficult personalities at work. These are some of the most contagiously bitter and almost inhumanely catty people I have ever dealt with. But the main problem is that I'm finding myself responding to them the way I see them responding to others because I'm not thinking first about my actions. I've gotta fix that. The other thing is that I find myself getting frustrated with the way in which they train me, i.e. as though either they must think I'm an idiot for not getting something (or not seeming to) right away or they just think that I need to be shown how to do the most rudimentary tasks even though I've mentioned on several occasions how long I've worked in a newsroom and how much of their equipment I've used before. This is probably a sensitivity issue on my part, at least to an extent, but I will say that it certainly feels like a large number of my coworkers don't seem to get that I've got it and they continue to frustrate me by leaning over my shoulder and telling me how to do things as I do them. I probably shouldn't let it get to me.

I figure in time they'll stop but meanwhile, I suppose I have to accept things as they are and not get catty along with them. Because the other thing that I noticed the first week I was there, was their collective tendency to talk about their coworkers behind their backs. This immediately made me uncomfortable because I can imagine they'll eventually find something about me that they can talk about behind my back. And that's just not conducive to a good working environment. Unless I just don't take part in it. It's not as though everyone there sucks. My new friend in engineering is one fine example. Even though we spent the other night after her band's show talking about work and what is wrong with it, I feel like she's at least level headed about it. It's okay to talk about the fact that everyone talks about everyone but it's not as though we were joining in singling out certain people for their behaviors. In fact, we were discussing on a philosophical level what leads to that kind of disharmony in a work place. Mostly it's people being badly trained to think it's okay to do the bare minimum (I'm getting an image in my head of Mike Judge's character in Office Space telling Jennifer Aniston that she needs more pieces of flair) and then passing that lazy attitude on to other people. Someone said to me, "Don't worry so much about doing your job exactly right." Whatever the hell that means and never mind the fact that I was being spoken to by someone several years younger than me who probably is working her first professional job at the station. Pardon me for being a little frustrated with that. I did just come from probably one of the best working environments I've ever been in (News 14 people, where you at!?). But essentially, everyone wants to try and get by doing as little as possible and they keep passing work on to other people, (for example, every single time there's a problem with a piece of equipment, or there might be, everyone jumps to the conclusion that the next logical step is just to step away and call an engineer to fix it, even if there's a huge probability that it's a user error type of situation). Then, everyone gets frustrated by those who do it, even though they do it themselves. I just don't work like that though. I like to know how to do things and be able to fix them instead of succumbing to helplessness and whining to an engineer that something's broken when it probably isn't.

Anyway, enough about the frustrations and disappointments in my life right now (except that I feel I should mention my cat peed on my rug [that rug really tied the room together, too]. Toilet training her is a trial). I had a good time out at Bunny's show, The Spines. They sound like The Ramones meets The Frogs and their singer plays an auto harp which I found pretty innovative. There were a few songs that I really enjoyed, the rest were typically 80s punk-inspired fodder. The hole in the wall was called Lakeside Lounge and it exists on the lower east side, right off of Thompson Square near the Life Cafe which was sung about in Rent the musical and was used as a location in Rent the movie (I love this city). Lakeside had $3 PBRs so it made my night a little easier. And they also had a pretty formidable juke box which I will be having a closer look at upon my inevitable return visit.

Tonight, I went over to a place called LIC bar and met a guy named Gus who, I think, forgot that I was coming to see his show and the bar at which he does booking specifically to meet him and other music types. Gus is a guy whom I myspace-met through a coworker, George, who gave me a list of music types to contact. When I met him tonight, he seemed to not realize who I was and was busy mingling with his friends. So I left and took a horribly long train ride home from Queens on the G train. I liked the bar and I liked Gus' music (he played a right handed guitar left handed, which I've only ever seen one other person do before) but I was ready to get out as I had gone by myself and I felt like, having another beer and waiting to talk more with the guy seemed stupid as it was going to take me an hour to get home and he didn't seem to remember that we had even exchanged emails. Whatever.

Tomorrow (more aptly today) I'm having Bunny over and we'll probably jam for a good bit. I'll blog to let you know how that goes. Wednesday I'm going to try and see Mike Edelman play some jazz and Banjo Jim's on the lower east side. Looks like I'll be heading back to Alphabet City again, where the avenues have letters instead of numbers. Once again, I love this city.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Networking and not working...

I went to that photo shoot in Greenpoint yesterday. Soon, I'll post some of the photos. They came out pretty well and I'm satisfied that I got a good deal...seeing as how I only had to pay the guy for the media (which was $10, so I'm sure I was paying for a little more than the media...the electric bill maybe, but whatever). He was a pretty nice fellow, an older immigrant from, I think Austria or Germany. Very much a people person. When I arrived at the building, on a back road in an industrial part of the neighborhood, Tony was already outside photographing two other people who had come for the test shoot. He greeted me warmly and immediately introduced me to Austin, another composer/musician who had come for the free photos, and said we should network. So we did.

I've noticed that it's getting loads easier to meet the people I want to meet, music and film types, but that not everyone is so keen on meeting yet another New York musician trying to "make it." Now, for my part, I'm not so much trying to make it in the sense that people most often think about. No, I've grown out of that and I think I'll be content if "making it" just means eating every day and having a comfortable apartment and a network of friends. When I mentioned that I was eventually going to start a band, his wry response was, "You and every other white kid in this town." Thanks, buddy.

I've decided a long time ago how I'm going to respond to this sentiment. After years of people telling me, "It ain't easy, kid," I've learned to respond, "I'm not doing it because it's easy." If I wanted something easy, I'd have stayed in Raleigh working in television.

Last night anyway, I went to Cobble Hill to hang out with an old high school friend, Mike E., for his birthday. One, I love that neighborhood and two, Mike has got some much nicer more humble friends. I met a guy who is a composer/jazz musician and we got talking about scoring because he's getting into that himself. I'd much rather associate with people like that who understand that it doesn't have to be so cut throat and you don't have to look at every new musician in town as someone infringing on your turf, like this is some kind of drug war.

Continuing on, I met a friend of Karishma's the other night at the Juilliard. This one works with a human rights media outlet that develops documentary content about human rights issues. Karishma and I were going there to meet her for an Indian art house movie but we both ended up being late and couldn't get in. So we romped around the Lincoln Center and surrounding areas just chatting about life until the movie was to get out. There we waited until her friend left the theater. Karishma and her friend talked for about ten minutes straight catching up on Mumbai connections and everything and then we started to head back to the train. On the platform I casually dropped that I was composer and we exchanged info. She said sometimes they need composers but it's all pro bono work. This is the kind of thing I would not mind having my name associated with at all so I told her I could totally work pro bono.

I'm going back to work after several days off of feeling useless and wishing I were making money with my time. I did do some job hunting while off and I have some good ideas about how to get in touch with this job as a Tape Operator at Deluxe Post Production. They are located literally right around the corner from Technicolor and it occurred to me they might either compete with or do business with Technicolor. Therefore, I might have a connection already. We'll see.